Splendid Sampler block #92: a splendid tip for matching seams

Beth BradleyHave you been sewing along with the Splendid Sampler? It’s truly inspiring to see quilters from around the world sharing the love of quilting together. I’m really honored to be a part of it, and also excited to share a little bit about my block today!

Download Beth Bradley’s Double Bees block at the Splendid Sampler website.

When I thought about designing a block, my grandma immediately came to mind. She was a talented quilter with a fabric stash as big as her basement, and I was lucky enough to have her as my first sewing teacher. Now that I’m grown up, I often think, how do you honor someone who taught you how to do your favorite thing? I think the answer is to share it with others whenever you get the chance. So, Double Bees is a little tribute to my grandma and all of the other sewing teachers who generously pass on their gifts.

RELATED: Get a sneak peek at The Splendid Sampler book

The block is a twist on the classic Honey Bee block. Bees are symbols of both hard work and sweetness—an excellent combination in my opinion! A traditional Honey Bee block usually has a nine-patch unit in the center, which creates a group of four bees:

honey bee
Classic Honey Bee block

In my version, I placed a small four-patch unit in the center in order to make just two bees that represent my grandma and me (two ladies with “B” as our last initial—hence the name Double Bees!).

The Splendid Sampler - Honey Bee block

The intersection of the four-patch is the focal point, so ideally the seams match up just right. The key to getting them to do that is nesting the seam allowances. Nesting means that the two shorter seam allowances point away from each other, making a perfect little edge to line them up at the intersection. Follow along to see what I mean!

Here are the four 1½" squares for the four-patch unit laid out in two rows of two. If you’re using directional fabric, be sure to orient the pieces the way you want them to end up.

Four-patch unit

Join the two squares in each row.

Join squares

Here’s an important step: Press the seam allowances of each pair toward the dark fabric. This ensures that you won’t see the seam through the light fabric from the right side, and it also means that the seam allowances will be pointing in opposite directions from each other.

Press seam allowances

You’re ready to nest! Place the two pairs right sides together. On each pair, the fold of the fabric from pressing the seam allowances creates a tiny little edge that will fit perfectly against the other. You’ll be able to feel how nice those seams match and lie flat once they’re aligned:



Now that the pairs are snugly nested, it’s time to sew them together. You could certainly pin them exactly at that intersection, but I like to keep them matched by touch. After placing the unit on my machine, I rest my pointer finger on the intersection so that I can feel the seams staying nested as I sew. Easy!

Sew nested seams

Hurray, it’s a match!

Seams nested

Now you can press open the four-patch unit and square it up as needed. There are a few options for pressing, but my preference for a tiny unit like this is to press the seam allowances open to help the block lie flat. You could also press them in one direction, or try Jo Morton’s clipping trick, which works wonders for small blocks.

Finished four-patch unit

Happy sewing, and thanks for stitching (and nesting) along with me! If you haven’t joined The Splendid Sampler Facebook group yet, there’s still time!

Who taught you how to sew? Tell us in the comments!










31 Comments (leave a comment)

  • My Mother taught me starting at about age six. Then I took sewing classes in Middle and High School. After graduating High Schho and not having much money I made some of my clothes during my first years of working.

    —Carole M. on January 15, 2017
  • My mom taught me to sew. My first projects were making handkerchiefs for Dad. Mom would press in a hem on a square of fabric and my part was to sew in the hem by hand. I remember it was so hard to hold the needle and keep it threaded. More times than not, I would sew it to the skirt of my dress.

    —Glenna Williams on January 15, 2017
  • My mom did we started off with hand making are doll cloths..happyness04431@yahoo.com

    Anna brown on January 15, 2017
  • My first grade teacher had us ‘sew’ our first blocks. We simply sewed (probably looked more like basting) cut out shapes onto muslin squares. They were colorful and reminded me of the PA Dutch Hex Signs that were so common in the section of PA where I grew up.

    —Mary on January 15, 2017
  • I learned to sew by a sweet lady who cared for me at the age of 6 while my mother worked. She had ‘tons’ of scraps and a treadle machine. We made tiny squares while she told me fun things about her childhood and family. When the quilt was finished, we tied the layers together with small pieces of yarn. Best memories of my childhood.

    —Donna Philip on January 15, 2017
  • My mother taught me to sew, first by hand at age 5-6, and then on the machine when I was 7. Our machine was a Singer Featherweight.

    —Sandy on January 15, 2017
  • What a beautiful and sweet story. I read all the block stories. I have a lot of interest in where the inspirations come from. Your story touched my heart. My Gramma was a quilter and a seamstress to. I remember many happy times around her sewing machine. So thanks for the memories, and the great block.

    —Vickie VanDyken on January 15, 2017
  • I had an adoptive grandma, I adopted her. She was a seamstress in the Fashion District in New York and she taught me. I had classes in Junior High School, but there were so many students that they could not teach the specifics. So my Yoyo taught those techniques.

    —Liz on January 15, 2017
  • My mother when I was about 7 when I got my first Barbie doll. This was hand sewing. When I was about 9 or 10 my mother bought a sewing machine at the local Singer store and took lessons. She wanted me to learn to so she sent me to sewing school there for three summers to learn how to make clothes and use the machine. I loved it and am still sewing on that machine.

    —Linda on January 15, 2017
  • My dear Mom taught me how to sew by hand first when I was in first grade. Later she taught me sewing machine skills and I did a lot of garment sewing. It wasn’t until my later years I took a quilting class and learned to quilt. Alas, there were no quilters in my family growing up!

    —Marie Eddins on January 15, 2017
  • My grandmother!

    —Karen on January 15, 2017
  • I learned how to sew in school first, home economics, then a friend and I started trying a bunch of different patterns during the summer with her Mom. So sad you don’t get to experience these things in school anymore. If it weren’t for home economics I would never have learned.

    Holly Burpee on January 15, 2017
  • Thanks for being one of the "Splendid" designers. This is a really cute block. Hope I can do it justice.

    Kathy Biggs on January 15, 2017
  • Thank you. I love your block. I had never heard of the Honey Bee Block. My grandmother nor mother ever sewed or quilted. I am enjoying learning how to make all of the beautiful splendid blocks. 😊

    —Judith Dozer on January 15, 2017
  • My Mom! ❤️ AND she was our instructor for my 4-H sewing group. Home Ec class projects in 7th & 8th grade- reversible bag/purse and a 70’s style tunic. Mom still sews but her passion now is knitting. Her Mom and Grandma were both avid seamstress’. I tried to pass it on to my daughter, somehow it skipped a generation. 😂Now I am teaching my Granddaughter.

    —Maggie Bradshaw on January 15, 2017
  • I taught myself to sew.

    —Margaret Dalmer on January 15, 2017
  • My Mom!

    —Janet on January 15, 2017
  • Unfortunately I lost my mother when she was very young, but the talent was evident in the things she did. My grandmother was amazing. She could turn fabric with needle and thread into gorgeous items with no patterns, she would tat the most delicate pieces I’ve ever seen. I have many of those and treasure them. My grandmother would patiently show me how to to embroider, sadly we never got to tatting. Then when I got married my husband’s step-mother taught me how to crochet and encouraged my interest in sewing. So these two women who took the time to show me the basics opened up the world of quilting, sewing, embroidery and in the process created a lifetime of delight using needle and thread.

    —Betty on January 15, 2017
  • My mother taught me to sew. She did alterations, yuk, I’d rather make something new.

    —stephanie woodward on January 15, 2017
  • My mother taught me to sew on a singer featherweight.

    —Karen M. on January 16, 2017
  • Gail Gregory from Touch of Amish

    —Angie Little on January 16, 2017
  • Took 4-H classes as a child, but spent many decades not sewing before I started again in my 50’s. After that, it was ‘learn to do by doing’… with a lot of help and tips from quilting friends.

    —JanG on January 17, 2017
  • My mother taught me to sew on her Singer Featherweight which I wish I still had, and while at Grandma’s on her White treadle which I have in my sewing room right now! When I was ten years old I took Singer sewing lessons in the summer with my best friend and was hooked – I have been sewing ever since…57 years!

    —Carole on January 20, 2017
  • I had several teachers. My mom and my grandma who lived with us taught me to sew when I was very young. I took classes in junior high and high school. I have sewn off and on since then. It’s a therapy for me.

    —Kathie on January 20, 2017
  • My mother and grandmother sewed but neither ever had time to teach me. I learned by watching and then doing mostly by trial and error. These days, with the internet, it is so much easier to google something you’d like to learn. I would have been in heaven if google had been available when I was teaching myself!

    Deborah on January 20, 2017
  • My mom and her mom taught me to sew. But at four it was love of the art. I still learn from my 91 year old mother. who stills quilts and loves to design children clothes. She gave me table runner last year that is so neat for Fall. I call it Fallen Leaves in the snow.

    —Linda Christianson on January 20, 2017
  • My mother started me sewing and then I had a home ec teacher in high school.

    —nancy seitz on January 21, 2017
  • My mom taught me when I was really young. Started hand sewing doll clothes. Then Mom let me use her old treadle machine. I was sewing cotton dresses before I got into Home Ec, but those teachers helped me develop those skills.

    —Pearl on January 21, 2017
  • My mom… learned on an electrified Singer 128 that had been a treadle… man, that machine had a wonderful stitch… still have the machine but it’s not in a treadle base, I do most of my sewing using one treadle machine. Mom was a patient teacher. Had a few home ec classes where we sewed but experience is the best teacher plus have taken many quilting classes… if you quilt you don’t usually have to worry about zippers or button holes.

    —Kay on January 22, 2017
  • I’m self taught and my earlier projects certainly bear this fact out. Books have been my constant companion over the years, many of them from Martingale. My husband jokes that our house has settled two inches since we bought the house in the late seventies just from the weight of my quilting book passion. Kim Diehl has been a guiding influence and I have every book she has ever written, all of which were purchased through Martingale. I check the site at least once a week just to see what’s new and never tire of learning new techniques. I do have a severe case of SABLE, but I’m working on that every day. Thank you for the treasures that make my passion for quilting so pleasant.

    SO many cases of SABLE in our office, Betty – we get you! –Jenny

    —Betty on March 23, 2017
  • I was taught to sew in school Home Economics. No more clothes making, quilting is my passion and now a fabric addiction. I took a quilt class first. Other lessons were through quilt guild and teachers brought in. Now i am privileged to have a personal friend who teaches quilting; I get private lessons.

    —Sheila Ivany on April 13, 2017

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